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One persons attempt to become a good artist painting in watercolour, experiences along the way and discussion of all things connected with it.

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  • 11/14/13--14:07: Shoes, Hats & Bags
  • This was the subject at today's AVA session. Only eleven members were present, perhaps a reflection of the popularity of the subject! However the hardcore were there gritting their teeth but ploughing on nevertheless. Actually I'm joking as the subject didn't seem to faze anyone that much and there were a variety of reasons for the low turnout.

    Yvonne Harry setup

    Pat Walker

    Yvonne Harry

    Not sure whose this is.

    Jo McKenna



     This was my setup

    Initial Contour Drawing

    Fabriano Schizzi Sketching paper A3 120 gm (56lbs)

    I was unsure what I wanted to do so decided to just do a drawing on sketching paper. Once it was finished - by my standards anyway - I had so much time left I decided to add a little paint. On it went and eventually finished as shown above. I did think it was going to be a disaster as my approach was half-baked to say the least but in the end I don't think it finished too badly. The whole thing took about an hour with several breaks. I used two brushes, the Escoda retractable Kolinsky Size 12 and the Rosemary retractable rigger. Colours were, Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, Raw Sienna, Quinacridone Gold, Cerulean with some Ultramarine Violet and Viridian in the background plus a little Quinacridone Rose. I also added some pen and ink, not something I normally do, to give it a more defined look.

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  • 11/17/13--08:42: The Medusa
  • Whenever I see photographs of this lady, the somewhat notorious Rebekah Brooks, currently on trial for various misdemeanour's involving phone hacking and perverting the course of justice (very serious). I am reminded of the mythical female creature The Medusa. Her shock of red hair and pale features bring this to mind immediately. All that is missing are the snakes and in her previous very powerful role in the Murdoch empire, the object of her displeasure could certainly be turned to stone. Fortunately those days are over (I hope!).

    In any event I was taken by a newspaper photograph and decided to attempt my first portrait since relocating to the new abode. This has also christened the new studio.

    A closer view

    The `Medusa' 16" x 12" Fabriano Artistico Extra White 300gsm not

    After a loose but careful drawing using a No7 2B mechanical pencil I first painted a wash of Cadmium Red Light and  some Cadmium Yellow light the red predominant, over the face area, not worrying too much about keeping within the boundaries. The hair presented a problem in that this particular shade of red is difficult to emulate but as I was not attempting a super realistic portrayal I didn't worry too much and used various mixtures of Cadmium Red, Cadmium Orange and some Burnt Umber added to darken the mix. I partially painted the hair on the left hand side and then concentrated on the features. I soon realised my face mixture was too strong and after completing the eyes, nose, mouth etc - and letting them dry - I added acrylic white in places to lighten the face colour. People with red hair tend to have very pale complexions. I then painted the hair using  bold strokes and not being too finicky. 

    Her top was Cerulean Blue and the scarf left the white of the paper with splotches of Burnt Umber in various dilutions. The orange splash is Schminke Translucent Orange. 

    Finally I added small shadows on the face with a few final touches. Brushes were the two Isabey retractables sizes 4 and 6 together with the Isabey Kolinsky sables sizes 6 and 8. I also used the Da Vinci Artissimo 44 mop but this is proving a problem as, when cleaning, the head is coming out of the ferrule and has to be put back in. This was an expensive brush so this is annoying and may mean I'll have to retire it soon.

    All in all an enjoyable session and I rather like the result, although how it will be received remains to be seen.

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  • 11/20/13--03:07: The New Studio
  • As readers will be aware my house move has involved setting up a new studio. It is more accurately described as my painting room - too modest for a studio. Not for me painting in the kitchen, indeed my wife wouldn't have it so that was a no no from the start. Neither have I the facilities to build a purpose built studio like many top artists have.  Fortunately in my previous home a redundant bedroom, the children having long left, was used for this purpose and proved highly satisfactory. When we moved we downsized and as a result the only space available was  the small third bedroom. This is smaller than my other `studio' and posed a few problems as the `bed' was a permanent wooden structure on which a mattress could be placed to make a bed. Very odd. As several have expressed interest in my `studio', perhaps because they face similar problems in finding somewhere satisfactory to paint, I am showing it as best as I can not in some triumphalist vein but as to what can be achieved with modest resources.   

    I promised myself that once the move was concluded - a very traumatic experience - I'd buy myself an Ipad. The grandchildren all have either Ipad minis or Ipod touches so I was feeling I was losing touch with modern technology. I waited until the Ipad air was introduced and here it is. Do I know how to use it? Well the book `Ipad Mini for Dummies' was borrowed from the children but with 360 pages of densely packed diagrams and text is hardly simple! Still I can Facetime them now when I need help!

    The two photos above show the partially dismantled structure of the `bed'.  New flooring had to be put down in the middle and some plastering before being painted. The large box-like structure had to remain as the stairs come up underneath it. A new top was put on  and then the whole thing repainted. It serves as a large shelf and  is a repository for paintings both framed and unframed.

    This view from the door looking in.

    This is on the right hand wall and shows my art books and some storage towers.

    Again from the door. There is a large cupboard for more storage. The window is recessed which affects the light. I have a daylight bulb which helps considerably.There is space in the cupboard for another storage shelf.

    Still another view. The mirror is temporary and will be replaced by a larger one on the wall which faces the window and should reflect and improve the light.

    A final view taken from the recess with the window behind.

    I had to use the lowest 17mm setting on my Nikon DSLR to get everything in so there is some distortion and it tends to make it look larger than it actually is.

    That's it then. I now have no excuses not to paint, despite all the conflicting things that involve a new home. The credit card is starting to protest and we're just about to depart on the trail of further necessary (the wife says) purchases!

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  • 11/22/13--03:00: Animals in Watercolour
  • Continuing the series of photographic  selections of  paintings I  either like or have found interesting are the following on animals. I believe all are watercolour but I may be mistaken in one or two instances. In several cases I know little or nothing about the specific artist but searching the web may bring more information if you are particularly taken by them. Bear in mind this is just not about animals but illustrates different ways to approach the subject - which may well be applicable to other things - and I would point to the use of colour, which I think is not sufficiently exploited by many artists. Naturally they are only my opinion(s) and you may disagree. I would love to be able to paint like some of those below.

    I'll start with this sensational painting from the superb Canadian artist Bev Jozwiak.

    Dave White

    Frank Ebers

    Lars Kruse - a disciple of Gerard Hendriks

    Nigel Short - wonderful colours

    Nora McPhail - again wonderful colours but in a more delicate manner.

    Peng Zigiang - very bold and dynamic

    Solveig Rimstad - actually I'm not fond of cats- they kill too many birds.

    The delightful Stephie Butler a master of the delicate use of colour.

    Peter Williams - amazing but is this watercolour I rather doubt it.?

    Both the above are by the wonderful  American artist Morten E Solberg Snr who paints animals in the landscape.

    Finally two from the Dutch artist and really delightful person Gerard Hendriks. I think they are both demos. Gerard's reputation continues to rise and he told me he is coming to the UK in 2015. Although this is some way ahead I'll strive to attend his workshop. I regard him in many ways as a European Charles Reid, although there are differences..

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  • 11/25/13--06:50: The Stork-Billed Kingfisher
  • This is my latest attempt at a bird for `Painting Colorful Birds for Fun' on Facebook. I first of all made a pencil modified contour drawing using a Pentel  mechanical 07 2B pencil. I painted starting with the head and then moving down the body and finally the tail. After the head was dry I painted the eye using Maimeri Ivory Black leaving a white spot.

     A range of colours reds, Quinacridone Rose, Perylene Maroon and Quinacridone Coral., mostly Daniel Smith. Blues, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue Deep (Rowney PB72), Turquoise (Lukas PB16) and Prussian Blue (Graham PB27). Yellows Green-Gold (mostly for the background), Quinacridone Gold (Daniel Smith PO49), Gold Ochre (W & N PY43), Raw Sienna, Raw Umber and finally Viridian (Rowney) and Burnt Umber. I think that's it.

    Stork-Billed Kingfisher  15" x 11" Fabriano Artistico 90lb Not

    I used a lightweight Fabriano paper, mostly because it was handy, quite satisfactory for this kind of subject with very little overpainting. Brushes were the Isabey 6228 Size 8 and the retractable size 4 plus a Rosemary retractable rigger.

    The whole thing took about 45 mins. This was my second attempt. I did start a similar study at the AVA meeting yesterday on cheap paper but it wasn't going well so I abandoned it. Too much haste.

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  • 11/29/13--03:31: This and That
  • I went to the AVA session last week but forgot my camera! I actually set out the previous evening to sort myself out and get better organized. I thought I had but when I got there realised I'd left my camera. The pleasures of advancing age!

    The subject was Figures or Portraits but this was affected by the proposed model being unable to attend. Basically we then did our own interpretation of the subject. This was the one item (apart from the camera) that I hadn't finalised and I was at a loss  what to do. First of all I raked out an old Amerindian study but in the end attempted a photograph of eldest grandson Harvey taken about a year ago. Quite often at home, with no time or any other pressures, I'll carefully measure and calculate the distances between eyes, nose, mouth etc - if the old masters could use all sorts of mechanical aids why not - and produce a  careful drawing. In this instance I did it the hard way and drew the outline of the head, then put in the features using rough measurements. It worked out roughly right although I didn't quite catch his expression and made him look about fifteen when he is not quite ten.

    Harvey 16" x 12" Fabriano Artistico Extra White 140lb (300gsm) not

    Not great is it - actually rather poor, eyes too big, face wrong shape etc etc - although the hair isn't bad. Still another step on my return to painting. 


    I did a post recently on the demise of PY153 the pigment mostly used in the popular Indian Yellow and Gamboge paints. This was a bit of a blow as the replacements are mixed pigment paints or not identical in colour. However one of the art shops in Bath, F J, Harris in Green Street, has been selling Rowney watercolours at very keen prices for  months. They didn't have the complete range but Indian Yellow was included. When the news broke I  visited the shop, as we live quite close to Bath, but they were out of stock of that colour. On a subsequent visit the same thing occurred so I thought that was it. Last week I called in again and lo and behold the Rowney had been re-stocked and I bought the  two 15ml tubes they had. It says `PY153' on the tubes so I assume this is correct, although some companies have been known to change the pigment without correcting the labels. Price was £5.63p which is almost  £1 cheaper than mail order from Jacksons. This should last a year or more. I wonder how Rowney are fixed with pigment supplies?


    The Spanish company Escoda make a very good range of brushes including Kolinsky sables. From what I have heard they are very nice people to deal with. They are also very good at marketing and have been getting an increasing number of artists to promote their products. The Dutch artist Gerard Hendriks was recently sent an assortment - I gather gratis - and has been testing them. I must admit to being very cynical about the huge, ever growing range, of art products, paints, papers, brushes, you name it, with artists names attached. 

    In the case of Escoda, specifically their top of the range Kolinsky series 1212, and retractable series 1214, they have at least two sets, one with Charles Reid's name,  and most recently John Yardley. Up until 2012 Charles Reid always recommended Da Vinci Maestro and indeed this was so on the 2013 workshops, although Escoda retractables were also mentioned and on some demos he used them. He also had a series 1212 Size 14 Escoda, possibly others, and  I subsequently bought one after examining it.  

     On one of his Catalonia workshops Charles was given the royal treatment with a visit to the Escoda factory.  We now have a three brush set of Charles Reid Reserva Series 1214 travel brushes in sizes 6, 8 and 10. Jacksons price is £57.80p but the standard Escoda series 1214 in the same sizes work out at £54.80p.

     I mentioned John Yardley. Escoda have also introduced a John Yardley set of three Reserva 1212 Series, sizes 6/10/12. The price is £49.90p while the same sizes in series 1212 in the basic Escoda name are £60.70! This is really weird, an apparent premium with Charles Reid's name on the brush and a discount if it is John Yardley. I have just checked these prices (Jacksons)  again to make sure I have it right but it is certainly correct as of today. Bromleys appear to be similar although they are only selling some of these special sets and not the standard series. As for John Yardley now recommending Escoda he previously swore by Winsor & Newton Series 7 and used a Size 10, costing over £100, exclusively. In his book about him Ron Ranson commented on the number of series 7 brushes lying about John Yardleys painting room that had been discarded because they had `lost their point'. There is one odd thing. Bromley refer to the Kolinsky sable travel brushes as the `Optimo' range and the 6.8 and 10 come to £45.49p. Is this a different cheaper alternative to the Reserva series? Somewhat bewildering and reinforces the belief that you should take nothing for granted and very carefully check things out before parting with your hard earned money.

    If you read the blurb, and the website comments, that refer to these brushes then claims are made that I find difficult to believe. They involve what sizes these artists are said to use and claims that they think they are the `best in the World or best they have ever used'. Well they may be and Escoda do make excellent brushes as I have several, both 1212 and 1214's.  On sizing though they are up to two sizes smaller than Da Vinci and also Raphael, possibly one in some others.  The prices are still very good even taking that into account. Best in the World? I think Rosemary, Da Vinci, Raphael, Isabey and others might dispute that. My current mix of brushes are Isabey and Da Vinci  plus Escoda and Rosemary Travel brushes. I like them all. 


    One final item. While playing with my new ipad I came across a website called `'- apparently American. It claimed to `assess' blogs and the following figures were quoted for mine.

    World Ranking- 14,335,201 USA 1,970,225
    Number of visitors per month: 386
    Daily Figure: 0 -17
    Average Number of page Reads; 1

    If these figures are correct I don't know why I bother. It would be like shouting to oneself in a sound proofed room. According to Blogger stats, this month will hit around 14,000 page reads, which is the highest ever. What should I read into this and which set are correct?

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  • 12/01/13--12:04: Butterflies & Birds
  • This was the subject at last Thursdays AVA session,. There were fifteen members present, much better than last week but below the average of what used to be the norm. We could do with an influx of new members, perhaps five or six.

    Jo McKenna

    Jan Weeks

    Peter Ward

    An interesting subject, one that we haven't tackled before. 

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  • 12/06/13--12:04: A Hostile Apache.
  • This Amerindian image is from the Edward Curtis series  and represents a hostile Apache brave circa 1880. I have done this one before but I think this is better. The likeness is not 100%, round about 70% I would say. 

    I'm not sure what the paper is, possibly Indian hand-made,  bought from Foyles in Cabot Circus, Bristol. Foyles are a famous London bookshop - now a small chain - not an art supplier but they were selling a small range of watercolour paper. 

    I used a scale divider to help me get the dimensions and spacing right scaling the guide photo up one and a half times, using a mechanical Pentel 07 2B pencil.

    Stage 2 - approximately.

    Stage 3

    A Hostile Apache - 16" x 12" Not 

    Face colours were essentially various mixes of Cadmium Red Pale, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cerulean and Cobalt Blue. The major colour is  Cadmium Red, very little yellow and small amounts of the blues to darken the mix.

    The hair is basically Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber and Raw Umber in various mixes. His headband is Quinacridone Rose, Quin  Coral ad Perylene Maroon with some Cobalt Blue..

    After seeing Charles Reid  paint portraits using the small Craig Young Sketchers box I decided to do the same. I haven't been using this in recent months and decided to start with fresh paint.  Charles checks the paint mixes consistency by holding the palette vertically and if it runs has too much water. The colours are, from left to right and top to bottom as follows: 
    Ist Row; Hansa Yellow Medium (Daniel Smith PY97), Cadmium Yellow Light (Lukas), Cadmium Red Pale (Rowney) and Permanent Carmine (Winsor & Newton)

    2nd Row: Ultramarine Blue (Rowney), Cerulean (Graham), Cobalt Blue Deep (Rowney), Turquoise (Lukas),

    3rd Row: Ultramarine Violet (Graham), Quinacridone Gold (Daniel Smith), Viridian (Rowney), Raw Sienna (Rowney).

    4th row: Translucent Brown (Schminke), Raw Umber (Rowney), Burnt Umber (Rowney), Translucent Orange (Schminke)

    You may note (some with horror?) that six different makes are involved. I have added three colours that have taken my fancy in recent months, the Schminke Translucent Orange and Brown. The orange replaces Cadmium Orange and the brown Burnt Sienna. The Schminke orange is redder than Cadmium Orange, and more transparent. The brown is a brighter Burnt Sienna. As for Turquoise (PB16) I just love that colour! I still have supplies of these other colours so no doubt they will appear again. They won't necessarily feature in portraits.

    A few words about Graham paints. I do like Graham but they do tend to be over moist and remain so on the palette. When I squeezed out the Cerulean  there was separation with liquid and pigment. Some tubes I have of Graham have leaked, apparently from pinholes. This is happening in a not particularly hot climate so I can understand the problems that occur in places like California. One colour, Mineral Violet, turned a muddy brown and three tubes later it still  did the same thing, despite my being told the third tube was from a different pigment supplier. Will I buy more? Not sure but I do like some of their colours especially Quinacridone Rust.

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    I've not kept up with the weekly subject on the `Paint Colorful Birds' Facebook page but completed this one yesterday. What a mouthful of a name.

    The Puerto Rican Tody 16" x 12" not

    This is painted on the back of a failed or discarded painting. I think it the Great Art Centenaire paper but not certain. 

    I made an initial drawing using a Pentel mechanical pencil 07 2B. This was done the day previously and painted yesterday. It is quite an easy subject compared to some other birds but interesting in the contrast of green and orange. I recently sorted my paints out and found I had at least ten different tubes of greens (!). When I looked at the bird I thought I would have trouble as I didn't have an emerald green but found a forgotten tube of Maimeri Cobalt Green Light (PG50). Although fairly old the paint was fine and I used it with touches of Hansa Yellow Medium (Daniel Smith PY97). The lower rear area has some Indian Yellow (Rowney PY153). The orange-red is Schminke Translucent Orange (PO71), and the breast some Ultramarine Violet (Rowney PV15) together with touches of Cerulean greyed with Burnt Sienna. The eye is Maimeri Ivory Black. The white areas were brightened with Acrylic white. The branch has Raw Sienna, Indian Yellow, Cerulean and Quinacridone Rust (Graham PO48) and Raw Umber.

    I used the Isabey Kolinsky sables series 6228 in mainly size 8 and the size 4 retractable. I like Isabey very much and while I think Escoda make excellent brushes the current spate of `big' name artists telling us Escoda are the `best in the world' increases my cynicism about listening to such marketing hype.

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  • 12/13/13--04:53: Children
  • This was the subject at yesterdays Avon Valley Artists meeting. I decided to paint my two grandsons as a portrait rather then a group of figures. I have painted them before but keep striving to produce the `definitive' version - not yet achieved if it ever will be. 

    I used two photos and combined them. The drawings were the same size as the images in the photographs and I used a ruler to gauge the distances from top to bottom and out to the sides of the face. A 2B 07 Pentel mechanical pencil was the drawing tool. I have pretty much given up using normal graphite pencils.

    Harvey and Mackenzie 20" x 14" Fabriano Artistico Extra White not 140lb (300gsm).

    I used my small sketchers palette and colours for the face were Cadmium Red Light, a little Cadmium Yellow, with Cerulean added where I needed to darken. I was conscious that children's complexions tend to be quite light and lacking shadow, so care is needed to avoid making them look much older.  I painted the face initially starting with the eyes then the nose followed by the mouth,  not stopping at the margins but going into the hair. The hair is  Raw Sienna and Raw Umber. Brushes used were the Isabey travel brushes size 4 and 6, and the Rosemary travel brushes sizes 6 and 10. My inspiration for portraits is Charles Reid but I am also very impressed with the delicacy of Stephie Butlers work. I also admire many others, Stan Miller, Lin Fealing to name just two..

    Yvonne Harry 

    Jan Weeks - This is grandson Xavier

    There were only 10 members present which is on the thin side. Next week it is Xmas Cheer - not a subject but a variety of `eats'.

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  • 12/17/13--02:19: A Surprise in the Mail!
  • Two days ago I received a most pleasant surprise in the mail. A lovely watercolour sketch of an `Orange-breasted Sunbird' signed Gerard Hendriks.

    Since I first got to know Gerard, albeit at long distance, I've come more and more to realise what a nice and generous man he is.  Not many would do what he has done, first with my grandaughter Evie's portrait and now this. When I thanked him for Evie's portrait, when he wouldn't even allow me to pay the carriage charges, his response was he likes to make people happy. Gerard is planning a UK workshop visit in 2015 and I hope to be there.

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  • 12/19/13--05:44: Pacific Ghosts
  • The islands of the South Pacific are full of shattered wrecks of World War Two aircraft, still being sought by collectors and enthusiasts. I painted one such - probably in the New Guinea region - of a WW2 Mitchell bomber. When I searched for subjects I also came up with the following which I've now painted.

    Japanese Mitsubishi G4M Navy Type 1 Attack Bomber 18" x 12" Fabriano Extra White not 140lb (300gsm)

    Because the Japanese named their aircraft in a way that westerners found difficult to comprehend a code system was introduced by the Americans with boys names for fighters and girls for bombers plus some other variations.  The G4M1 or 2 depicted above was code named `Betty'. The Betty was the standard navy attack bomber of WW2 and soldiered on to the end as potential replacements failed to appear . It was fast and had an enormous range but suffered from lack of protection for both crew and fuel tanks, a major Japanese weakness. As a result losses were very heavy. Nevertheless it is considered one of the outstanding aircraft of WW2. This example was lost somewhere - I would guess - in the Solomon islands.

    I first made a loose pencil drawing, the only area of any detail being the aircraft itself, which is surrounded by a tangle of jungle vegetation. Colours were Cerulean, Cobalt Teal Blue (Daniel Smith PG50), greys from Ultramarine and Burnt Umber/Burnt Sienna. The fuselage colours included Quinacridone Rust (Graham PO48), Sap Green and Hookers plus some Raw Umber. The surrounding foliage was a variety of greens including Green-Gold (Rowney PY129), Sap Green and Hookers, Apatite Green (Daniel Smith) Raw Umber, Cobalt Teal Blue and Ultramarine Blue.

    Brushes used were the Isabey Kolinsky Series 6228, sizes 6, 8 and 10. The Da Vinci Artissimo 44 Kolinsky mop and also - unusually for me an angled shader, about 5/8th. I think I may introduce small flats with certain paintings. I've seen Janet Rogers on video use flats in her portraits to great effect.  

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  • 12/22/13--03:50: Birds in Watercolour
  • As regular visitors will know I like painting birds. The following are a collection of paintings I like but once again are impressionistic rather than photo realistic. I'm not about to get into the argument about photorealism - each to his own.

    Abigail Larson

    Dean Crouser

    Peter Nilsson

    Robin Berry

    Vickie Nelson

    Gerard Hendriks

    Peter Williams

    Morten E Solberg Snr

    Jean Haines

    Susan Crouch

    Sarah Yeoman

    Lars Kruse

    Bev Jozwiak

    Gerard Hendriks

    Cemal Selimgl

    Of the above artists Gerard Hendriks, Robin Berry, Morten E Solberg Snr, Bev Jozwiak, Jean Haines and Lars Kruse are the ones I know most about. I'm not a great fan of Jean Haines, despite her being flavour of the moment. When I look at paintings like the example above I am reminded of the story of the King with no clothes. I'm a big fan of Gerard and Bev Jozwiak and also think Morten E Solberg Snr is terrific. The others, whom I know little about, are also excellent although I realise this is a matter of personal taste. What I would suggest is that they are not looked at solely as paintings of birds, but the use of colour and various other techniques, and whether the various approaches can be applied to other subjects. If I've misspelt any of the artists names I do apologize to them. Many of the above appear on Facebook, which is a treasure trove of paintings of all types.

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    To all my followers and other visitors to the blog may I wish you all a Happy Xmas and a successful and prosperous 2014.  Already things are moving. Yesterday I signed up with some trepidation to Saied Dai's highly rated -`exacting'- Life Drawing course at Bath Artists Studios. I'm told it's really tough.This is ten three hour sessions beginning 13 January. Fortunately Pat Walker from my Avon Valley Artists group is also going so I won't be alone! More about this later.

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    Great Art are freezing prices for January  Plus giving an extra 15% off  online prices. Unfortunately this only applies to the UK and EU and Great Art, who are German, don't supply outside Europe. They have a UK website so UK artists can order from that and the goods are delivered very efficiently from Germany. I have heard some say they are inflexible - they won't keep stuff on backorder for example and you have to reorder - but I've had no problems in my dealings with them. I suspect we shall see price rises in February so if you need anything order now.

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  • 01/06/14--08:01: The White-Crested Turaco
  • This is the latest bird featured in the `Paint Colorful Birds for Fun' community on Facebook. I combined two photos and made up the rest.

    My working setup.

    I first drew the larger bird at the front then painted it. I had thought I might add another and eventually did so. Colours used were Hookers Green, Green-Gold (Rowney), and Viridian (Rowney). Hansa Yellow Medium (Daniel Smith), Indian Yellow (Rowney), Turquoise (Lukas) Ivory Black (Maimeri), Indigo (Daniel Smith), plus touches of Quinacridone Rose (Graham), and on the tree, Raw Sienna, Gold Ochre, Quinacridone Rust (Graham) and Yellow Ochre (Graham).

    Brushes used were the Isabey 6228 Kolinsky sizes 4, 6, and 8 plus the retractables 6201 size 4 and 6. This was painted on the back of a reject painting as it was basically an exercise designed to get me going once more..

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  • 01/12/14--05:09: Another shot at `Betty'.
  • I recently posted a painting of a derelict shot-down `Betty 'bomber somewhere in the jungle on a South Pacific island. This aircraft was a Japanese WW2 Mitsubishi  G4M Type 1 Navy twin engined attack bomber. The islands of the South Pacific and other adjacent areas where fighting took place are littered with the wrecks of Allied and Japanese aircraft, and when discovered , if  possible, they are reclaimed by enthusiasts. in order either to be restored or just partially displayed if they are decayed beyond a full restoration. As reiterated earlier the Americans, unable to comprehend the complexity of Japanese aircraft names, initiated a code name system with boys names for fighters and floatplanes, and girls names for bombers, flying boats and training aircraft. This isn't the same aircraft although the `pose' is similar.

    This was my setup.

    Derelict  `Betty' 15" x 11" 140lb not Paper Unknown (another `reverse' painting).

    As so often happens I felt the original  painting was overworked. Charles Reid says whenever he asks students to critique their paintings the usual comment is that they have overworked. I personally feel overworking is the main fault of many, many watercolours, but that's just my opinion.

    Putting my thinking cap on I decided  to concentrate on the aircraft this time and  hint at the mass of foliage that surrounds and entangles it. Often I'm far too hasty in approaching subjects and a little less haste and more thought usually produces a better result. There are also a lot of subtle colours in this photo and that presented a challenge and opportunity. After a careful drawing, with the main emphasis on the glazed nose of the aircraft, I applied masking fluid Pebeo Drawing Gum, with a ruling pen, not a huge amount but lots of small touches, mainly on the framework of the glazed nose but also the engine and lower belly and into the surrounding foliage. I let it dry really well not painting until the following day. You cannot leave it too long as removing it can cause problems and damage the paper. In this instance the Pebeo came off with no difficulty so it may be better in this respect than some other makes. 

    When painting I began with the nose and put in the darks as a starting point. then progressed to the underbelly, then cockpit and fuselage sides. The darks were various mixtures of Ultramarine and either Burnt Sienna or Burnt Umber. Greens were Viridian, Hookers, Green-Gold with added Ultramarine, Cerulean or Hansa Yellow Medium to vary the shades. The cockpit area and immediately below the fuselage side are Ultramarine Violet. Ultramarine Rust (Graham PO48) is the `rusty' colour, which was emphasized with a stronger mix at the end. I think,that's it but there may be touches of other colours here and there.

    Brushes used were the Isabey Kolinsky sables series 6228 sizes 4, 6 and 8. Plus the Da Vinci Artissimo 44 size 2.

    It may seem  an odd subject to paint and one that is unlikely to sell, although I don't paint to sell. Charles Reid says paint offbeat subjects. In his case he can probably sell anything but in mine.....It ties in with one of my other interests which is WW2 in all its aspects and aircraft feature strongly. One of the attractions was the multitude of subtle colours, even the greens. I am quite pleased with this one, particularly as I think I avoided overworking and the painting has a nice `unfinished' look. Well I think so anyway.

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    On Monday Saied Dais Life Drawing course began at Bath Artists Studios. I approached this with slight trepidation as I had read - and been told - that this was a very high quality course BUT equally that it was very demanding. We had enrolled on the afternoon session from 2pm to 5pm. Saied did seven years at Art School and is a full time artist. The only teaching he does is this one day a week course.

    Pat and I arrived early to discover that there was no heat or electricity! Bath Artists Studios is in a quite old building on the upper Bristol road, and inside is rather like a rabbit warren. It is a community of artists - not just painters - who rent small studios, and is run by a committee, that include top artists like Brian Elwell and David Cobley. The thing about the place is the quality of the courses and teachers not the splendour of the building.

    On arrival we met Saied Dai who welcomed us and repeatedly apologized for the lack of heating - the boiler was being changed - and electricity which was somehow related to the boiler change. We remained without electricity  until two thirds of the way through. Despite these setbacks the course commenced. There were about a dozen people there with Pat and I plus another man the only newcomers. I gathered several had been on previous courses and indeed some had already done the morning session. As usual men were in a minority with a mixture of ages, my being at the upper end!

    Because of the lack of heating the model - a young lady - had to remain clothed but as I've never drawn or painted nudes this wasn't necessarily a bad thing to start. Saied  comes across as a really nice man and spoke quietly, which tended to soften the pretty stark things he had to say.  I can't remember everything but certain things stuck in my mind. He was scathing about the quality of teaching in  art schools saying 90% should be blown up! He also categorized artists as being either professional or amateur and this wasn't with reference to whether one earned a living from art or just did it as a recreational hobby. He certainly takes no prisoners but his manner is such that it didn't either offend or frighten. I think the overall message to us new comers though was be prepared to be told that up to now you've  done everything wrong and you need a new mindset.

    It started off with him telling us to draw the model in our normal manner. Pat has done some of this before but I hadn't and made a complete hash of it. I should have said that we used an A3 sketching pad, which was propped up on our laps and a chair placed in front. This was deliberate but something I've never done before and the resulting sketch was awful. I was going to show it but my `warts and all' policy only stretches so far. I could have been torn to shreds when he asked me what I thought but being self-critical I didn't need him to tell me it was terrible. We were also told to look at all the other sketches and he asked us what we thought of them. When expressing a general opinion - who am I to be critical - he asked why we said what we said. I can't recall the exact sequence but he talked a lot about the art of drawing and the various principles that should be applied, going into detail in a way that was different to anything previously experienced. It was fairly mind blowing to me , but not to  the bulk of the class and Pat found it exciting.

    Although a three hour session things seemed to move on and after a break in the middle he took us three newcomers into a corner and talked to us about the principles he taught. This took quite a long time and he asked us to take notes. I would have loved to have a tape recorder as it was impossible to write everything down but he covered things under six headings, proportion especially relating to intervals and vertical and horizontal relationships, axis, positive shapes, tone, colour and composition. Colour is only covered because of its relation to tone.

    Finally we were asked to draw the model again applying the principles he had expounded. By this time I'd overcome my initial funk and thought hard about what to do. I should have mentioned he said we should relate the model to the background and not leave her floating in air nor apply any shading. 

    This is my second drawing. Although on an A3 sheet it is quite small and unfinished. Just before the completion of the session he looked at it with the first drawing side by side. He pointed out that the later one was much better but I realise this is relative.

    Meanwhile the weather outside had been terrible, wind and rain. The bus stop is just outside but for some reason the park and ride bus was delayed, and after a 25 minute wait in wet and cold conditions it finally arrived and sailed past full!   After further adventures we finally arrived at our cars and made it home.

    After this tale am I disheartened? Not at all. I have little doubt  there are tough times ahead but I shall continue determined to prevail. I liked Saied a lot. He is thought provoking and very outspoken but his manner is such that you are neither affronted or disheartened - at least so far! I am looking forward to next week, slightly nervous perhaps but also intrigued.

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  • 01/17/14--04:30: The Tufted Coquette
  • This is the latest bird subject on the `Paint Colorful Birds for Fun' Facebook community. Can't say I'm very happy with it and have cropped the painting somewhat. It's colourful but that's about it.

    Lots of scope for colour, too much possibly, with all the usual suspects present.  I think it an example of what happens when things get too complicated so I should have simplified much more. I may have another shot at it this afternoon but am more inclined to do an Indian portrait as I've just been watching the Charles Reid `Figurative Watercolours' video again.. Unfortunately since Xmas eve I've been struggling with a virus which has ebbed and flowed and returned with a vengeance yesterday. I think perhaps this was due to the soaking received when leaving Bath Artists studios on Monday. Still I feel better today so fingers crossed. I've been doing some work on the Kolinsky Sable brush piece but still more to do before I can post it.

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